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12-year-old Ronnel Smith of West Allis killed over glasses, complaint says

According to a news release from the West Allis Police Department, officers arrested 17-year-old Lawrence Griffin of Milwaukee.
Ronnel Smith
Posted at 3:38 PM, Mar 10, 2023

WEST ALLIS, Wis. — Authorities have made an arrest in the deadly shooting of 12-year-old Ronnel Smith of West Allis on Feb. 25, 2023.

According to a news release from the West Allis Police Department, officers arrested 17-year-old Lawrence Griffin of Milwaukee.

Smith was shot and killed near 56th and Lincoln in West Allis. A 17-year-old teen was injured.

According to online court records, Griffin was charged with:

  • 1st-Degree Intentional Homicide
  • 1st-Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety
  • Possess Firearm-Convicted of a Felony

According to a criminal complaint released Friday, mostly teenagers were hosting a party in a space near 56th and Lincoln on Feb. 25. Police say the victims were inside the Bug 'N Party Lounge.

Griffin tried to snatch the victim's glasses from his head. Smith tried to run and that's when he was shot, according to investigators.

Members of the crowd saw the handgun and tried to get out of the way - indirectly clearing a path for the shooter to pursue the victim. The victim only made it a few feet before the suspect grabbed the victim with one hand while pointing the gun at him with the other hand. The suspect pulled the trigger, hitting the victim. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting. The suspect ran out of the building.

Officers arrived at the establishment after a shots fired call. Griffin was arrested days later after a police chase.

If convicted, Griffin faces life in prison.


TMJ4 News' initial coverage of the homicide:

12-year-old boy shot and killed in West Allis

Another family is grieving the loss of a child at the hands of gun violence this week after a 12-year-old and 17-year-old were shot near 56th and Lincoln in West Allis on Saturday night. One of the children, a 12-year-old boy, was killed as a result of the shooting.

According to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office's demographic report, the victim was 12-year-old Ronnel Smith of West Allis.

Ronnel Smith
12-year-old Ronnel Smith of West Allis.

The shooting happened just after 9 p.m. at a party being held at a tavern in the area. On arrival, West Allis Police officers spotted the two who were struck by gunfire.

The 12-year-old died at the scene and the other victim was transported to a local hospital for his injuries. A 17-year-old male was injured in the shooting, according to West Allis police. Police said the shooting happened inside the building.

The owner of the lounge, Amy Thompson, told TMJ4 a 17-year old girl's birthday party was going on at the time.

Thompson showed us the event space, which is separate from the bar. She says it’s very common for the hall to be rented out for parties of all ages.

“We’ve had all kinds of parties up here and never had problems like this,” Thompson said. “I can’t wrap my head around the idea that something like this happened. I can’t wrap my head around the idea that children are getting guns… I can’t wrap my head around the idea that life doesn’t mean anything to people.”

She says parents and chaperones were present at the birthday party.

Verlin Walker lives in West Allis and walks through this neighborhood every day. He walked by the scene shortly after the shooting took place on Saturday.

“I mean, to wake up and find out that it was a 12-year-old boy,” said Walker. “You can say put the guns down but are they gonna listen? That’s the thing. Are they gonna listen? How do you make them listen?”

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to please contact the West Allis Police Department at (414) 302-8000.


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